A Year of Homeschooling Peacefully in the Ancient Times

May 30, 2022 at 1:42 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The school year began, for me, in a bit of chaos. My son was born over the summer. My mother had died. In addition to my newborn son, I had two extra children in my household. I was overwhelmed by the impeding doom of our co-op. I could sense it coming, but I honestly thought it was a year or two off and I was committed to giving it my kiddo’s fifth grade year before bailing, believing that the proverbial poop would hit the fan a few months after my departure. (It hit sooner.)

Still, after the children went back to their own home. The co-op dissolved and something new began… we found ourselves homeschooling through the ancients in our own little Pax Romana. We declared this our year of homeschooling in peace and it has been phenomenal.

As usual, we began our dive into Ancient history with the Epic of Gilgamesh. After years of reading the picture book trilogy by Ludmila Zeman, it was time to upgrade to a a more “grown up” version of the story. Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean was a perfect bridge for the dialectic stage, from elementary to the full translations of high school. Kiddo was struck by the subtle differences, the pieces that make it suitable for older readers, but not for younger ones. As a child who doesn’t like change, learning that different adaptations have a different flow and feel to them has been a challenge. As a ten/eleven year old, she has now been exposed to several adaptations of the Gilgamesh myth and also has a much broader view of near eastern cultures and history. I’m happy to say, my homeschooler as an elementary graduate has a more thorough understanding of history and other people groups than I did as a public school high school graduate. These are the goals, and we’re winning.

I read The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley out loud to two ten year olds and an eight year old. This is right about the time we started making our timeline (using Amy Pak’s Home School in the Woods History Through the Ages Record of Time), and having the kids perform narrative plays of what I had just read to them while I nursed my infant. Our house is fairly full of music, so naturally we ended up making a lyre (and some ukuleles) as a hands on craft which in turn became props in our living room productions of The Golden Bull.

Meanwhile, we were also re-reading Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the Wold Volume One for the third time, reading Story of Civilization for the first time, plucking our way through the Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, reading the Old Testament, and for good measure added a plethora of picture books I had on hand from the last time we studied the ancients.

Ox, House, Stick by Robb was discovered while we studied the Phoenicians and the alphabet. This one came highly recommended, and the kids liked it ok, but it wasn’t my favorite. We also re-read The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone by Giblin, that one is always fun and fascinating.

We had some extensive discussions regarding laws and lawmakers. The kids each read a biography on Hammurabi, the one by Mitchell Lane Publishers was the best, we thought. A few rabbit trails later and we spent an afternoon on You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Assyrian Soldier.

As we moved into the time of the Egyptians, we tackled Green’s Tales of Ancient Egypt, The Landmark Book of Pharaohs by Payne, Mara: Daughter of the Nile by McGraw, The Golden Goblet also by McGraw, and The Cat of Bubastes by G. A. Henty. Kiddo hated Mara, I thought it was great. I found the Golden Goblet on the boring side, Kiddo loved it. The fun thing about reading so many books together are the discussions. Homeschooling is basically book club every day. I love book club!

One of my pet topics of study as an adult is the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. I find her to be the most intriguing and have some theories as to where her place in history overlaps with our knowledge of biblical history. The kids each grabbed a biography and I re-read a few of my own. Although I usually love National Geographic stuff, our favorite is the one put out by Compass Point Books. Compass Point Books, for the most part, is a huge go-to in our house. If I see one, I grab it, often accidentally purchasing duplicates. They are more thorough than the Who Was series, but less daunting than the DK series, although we own a good amount of both of those as well. At this point, Kiddo tried her hand at her first full length essay, complete with me dragging out my typewriter for her to type the finished product.

I also love David MacCauley books and we read Pyramid. Kiddo does *not* love David MacCauley books, which is unfortunate because I think I own them all. She preferred diving into Mummies, Tombs, and Treasure and the Magic Tree House Research Guide: Mummies & Pyramids. Side note to the Magic Tree House books: Although the fiction books are overly simplistic and quickly outgrown, we have found that the research guides last all of the elementary school years and are revisited often. We will keep the research guides long after the fiction series is purged, I believe. As homeschool eccentrics this study coincided with our anatomy studies in science. The kids got the chance to observe a profession necropsy of a rat and later Kiddo tried her hand at mummifying the spare dead rat. AmenRAThep still lies in our garage buried in salt in his intricately decorated plastic tomb. An expository essay on the mummification process ensued. More tapping away at my now “vintage” typewriter… More revisiting all our favorite picture books (Mummy Cat by Ewert just never gets old and Tutankhamen’s Gift is lovely) as well as the HMNS for the Ramses exhibit.

Necropsy

When we wrapped up our anatomy studies, the mummification process became a nice bridge into our archaeology unit. We used the Wonders of Creation series from MasterBooks.com. The Archaeology Book by David Down and The Geology Book by Dr. John D. Morris led beautifully into The Fossil Book by Gary Parker. We’re definitely going to continue through this series into Caves, Minerals, Oceans, Weather, and Astronomy as we move through the timeline to the middle ages.

I love multi-sensory learning whenever possible, so during all this we also tried our hands bringing our history studies to our taste buds. One of my favorite cookbooks to pull out during the ancient years is The Philosopher’s Kitchen. It’s full of ancient flavors that make use of modern kitchen routines so you can enjoy the taste of the times without slaving away. We have recipes we’ve attempted to make the way they would, but I’m content with learning to use the kitchen I have instead of trying to time travel. Kiddo found some easy kid recipes in various places and we also enjoyed some Mesopotamian sweet breads she made herself that were rather tasty. Cardimon and honey is a lovely flavor combination.

Thankfully, the African Chicken was deemed “tasty” by our harshest critic.

Another aspect to unit studies/ studying all disciplines through the timeline, is that we tried Spelling You See for the first time and used the Ancient (level F) package. Spelling You See was developed by a reading specialist who encourages identifying word patterns and color coding them. Married with dictation of an entire topical paragraph, this curriculum abandons the by rote memorization of a list of spelling words. I find this method useful, but we will also continue with our Spelling Workout books after we’ve completed all the lessons in this book, as spelling is a subject we’re going to have to continue to work on long after some of our peers have abandoned it as a subject. I’m ok with this, Kiddo tests gifted in most subjects but spelling is a struggle. We remind ourselves daily that we can do hard things (through Christ) and that it is ok to not be perfect at everything as long as we’re trying our best.

Adara by Gormley, God King by Williamson (we had already read Hittite Warrior years ago), and Days of Elijah by Noble were read as we continued our studies of the Old Testament as well as Herodotus. (Kiddo loved Days of Elijah, I tried to read it with her but I found the writing style very off putting, I honestly cannot remember if I finished it or not.) Kiddo re-read Bendick’s Herodotus & The Road to History, we both love all things Bendick. I wanted to re-read Herodotus’s book as the last time I had read it Kiddo was two or three, but time got away with me. We were knee deep in fractions because math may never be abandoned, no matter how many people die (we had four significant deaths this season), or how tired you may be. What kept our mind clear enough to finish our Singapore 4a&4B curriculum and get through Math-U-See Epsilon, was the fact that we were taking time to study God’s word daily. We weren’t just trying to incorporate theology in our homeschool, my husband was actually leading bible study every evening (and had been since the start of our marriage in 2020); and in addition to that, upon moving into our new house in 2021 we began using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System. I found a reasonably priced recipe box on Amazon and started adding index cards as per the instructions of the method (follow the link). Focusing on hiding God’s Word in your heart, opens the mind up for so much more, and in all the crazy we prayed for God to help us be good stewards of our brains and our time and the results have been delightful.

With all this Bible study, Kiddo requested to eventually study Aramaic and Hebrew and Koine Greek, but we decided to wait as we continue on our Latin studies. One thing at a time, and we still have some Latin books to complete.

Now, for the Greeks… The D’Aulaires have a lovely Greek Myths book. In addition to that, Kiddo read more books on Homer’s work than I can count. The highlight reel were repeat romps through the Mary Pope Osborn adaptation, Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus, and Lively’s In Search of a Homeland. She also read for the first time Aleta and the Queen, Flaxman’s The Iliad of Homer, and Colum’s Children’s Homer. By the time she reads Homer’s unabridged work, she’ll know the stories so thoroughly I’m hoping the poetry of it will shine through and delight her in ways that evaded me when I blindly trudged through it for the first time because I had no previous knowledge of context to work from. I had planned for us to read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, but when you’re done, you’re done. So we’re saving Hamilton for the next time around, in four years.

Bendick’s Archimedes and the Door of Science as well as The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Lasky are must haves. We have read them every time we’ve studied the Ancients and sometimes we pluck Lasky’s picture book up to read just for kicks.

Rome Antics by MacCauley was beautiful. It takes about ten minutes to read, but days to absorb if you want to go back and study all the architecture as well. I didn’t dwell on it too much as she’s already read Where Were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? and Where Is the Parthenon? (we did a hands on project with friends building the Parthenon out of marshmallows which was fun). While on the Who/What/Where series kick, she also read Where Is the Great Wall? We’ve studied ziggurats and pyramids and a number of other structures this year, and now that we are currently studying Rome, I’m going to have to collect my thoughts and make proper plans to lay the groundwork for a strong introduction to architecture. In the meantime, now that summer is here, we’re listening to the Rise of Rome on Wondrium, and plucking through our never ending reading list.

I’ll continue to update as we make our way through the last hundred years or so before Christ, through the New Testament, and onto the invasion of Britain. We already studied Pompeii and went to the museum exhibit with our co-op, and volcanoes were studied in passing while we raised money for the Pacific Rim Awana programs and made a homemade volcano during a friend-date at our house. (I think we may start a science club…)

(We got a taste of Asian mythology and folklore with some read alouds and picture books, but I think we will revisit them in a more heavy handed way when we study Marco Polo again. If you’re looking for titles, I recommend perusing everything by Demi as well as 101 Read-Aloud Asian Myths.)

This school year has been our most relaxing yet, despite the chaos of life, and we hope to continue this pattern in the years to come.

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Instilling Financial Wisdom

March 10, 2022 at 11:25 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Title: Stock Market Investing For Teens

Author: Myles West

ISBN: 9798416564322

Pages: 149

Theme Music: The FatRat Warrior Songs: Reminiscence

Ok, maybe the Theme Music was a little much, but I mainly listened to this while I read Myles West’s investment guide for teens and planned kiddo’s future. According to West, only 35% of kids 12-19 (as of 2021) had ever had a savings account, and though I agreed to read this book and leave an honest review in exchange for a free copy, I definitely sat and patted my back for having savings accounts for both my kids and choosing this particular title to review. I have always assumed helping children plan for their financial future was the norm, I did not realize how in the minority I was until this book.

While married to my oldest’s father, we suffered a lot of hardships, many that began and ended with financial irresponsibility and abuse. It was during those years that I realized how important it was to not just “agree” about money, but to understand when you are and are not speaking the same language when discussing money topics. It’s not enough to agree that it is “good to save,” questions like “how do you plan to save?” must also be answered accurately. Newsflash: “Win the Lottery” is not a good answer. Spending is a touchy subject too. Agreeing that bills should be paid on time is not the same thing as someone actually paying their bills on time, or even prioritizing those bills over their vices. And although I am grateful for the skills I learned while foraging for food in the woods when he kept grocery money from us so he could buy beer, that’s obviously not the place I want my kids to be in life. Ironically, I was reviewing financial books even then. I knew the “right” answers, but I didn’t know how to help my then spouse make the right choices. The new goal is to simply help my kids learn to make the right choices before they are married so they don’t find themselves acting like or married to someone who tackles money like my ex.

It’s not just enough to start a savings account, though, although that’s a great start. We talk a lot of about being a good steward of our finances in our house. As a homeschool mom, I have the opportunity to teach my kids all the inner workings of household management throughout the day while we tackle math, reading, history, and science. My oldest can now budget out and cook dinner once a week as part of her home economics, she’s eleven. She has been taught to save money for pets and their care and upkeep. We have a two year old puppy, a seven year old hermit crab, one year old Australian tree frogs, and she has set up a freshwater aquarium for a betta fish whose extra plant features she has to earn by doing the dinner dishes every night.

Even this is not enough.

Around 8th-9th grade I plan to add the Math-U-See Stewardship curriculum to our school days. When that happens, I’m also going to add West’s investing book to the required reading list.

As an adult, I’m familiar with most of what was discussed for Americans (West’s book also tackles actions available for Canadian citizens), so I read through the 149 page book in one sitting as soon as I took it out of its package. A teenager being exposed with the terminology and ideas for the first time will have to peruse it more thoroughly. Although West does an excellent job defining terms and laying out a thorough getting started guide, I would consider it just that––a guide to get started. A teen would (and should) take a great deal longer than a nine month old’s nap time to digest this book. It’s good stuff.

In addition to the well rounded and systematic way West approaches investing for the first time, I love how he also touches on volatile markets. Many adults pushing kids to invest don’t properly address the risk factor, but I think West handles it well. The risk is real, but these are things you look for…

The best part, West doesn’t act like his book is the end all be all of everything. In a household where our mantra continues to be “Education is a lifetime pursuit” you bet your britches I was delighted to read West write,” The more you know, the less likely you are to make mistakes. Your reading and thinking may also lead to improved investing techniques and performance.” He then continues to encourage his readers to learn about successful investors and firms as well as those who have failed. “[…]there is always more to learn…”

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The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

February 10, 2021 at 4:43 am (Education, In So Many Words) (, , , , , )

“Why are the virgins trimming their wicks?”

We were listening to Johnny Cash’s When the Man Comes Around. Not but a month or two ago we discussed how it was a song about Revelation, because her mind was blown that I had put Johnny Cash on my Spotify playlist of gospel music. She is also taking a poetry class and is significantly more interested in lyrics and their meanings than ever before. This time, the song came on because I had been sent a meme of a cat riding a dog that said, “And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the rider’s name was death.” It was pretty funny. I had a good laugh. I posted it on social media with a link to Cash’s song and started playing the song, because how can anyone resist? The song itself is a thing of beauty.

“Well, do you remember Matthew 25?” I pulled out my bible and started reading her the Parable of the Ten Virgins. She, with her impeccable memory, started reciting it.

Matthew 25:1-13, New International Version

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

“I remember that one,” she said, “But I don’t know what it means.”

And we talked about Jesus coming again. Because of a Johnny Cash song, we talked about how it is important for Christians to ever be ready for Christ to come again, because we don’t know when that will be. 

Don’t just talk about being a Christian, live your life as one. Study the Word daily, pray without ceasing, don’t be the one the Lord says, “I never knew you,” to. Our relationship with Jesus is more than just a religion, more than just showing up on Sunday, more than a series of rituals. Saying we are a Christian means we are followers of Christ and the words should not be slung around lightly. Because, as Cash says (referencing a story in Luke), one day, “the father hen will call his chickens home.” We definitely want to be one of the chickens.

WHEN THE MAN COMES AROUND – JOHNNY CASH

“And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder

One of the four beasts saying,

‘Come and see.’ and I saw, and behold a white horse”

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names

And he decides who to free and who to blame

Everybody won’t be treated all the same

There’ll be a golden ladder reachin’ down

When the man comes around

The hairs on your arm will stand up

At the terror in each sip and in each sup

Will you partake of that last offered cup

Or disappear into the potter’s ground?

When the man comes around

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers

One hundred million angels singin’

Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettledrum

Voices callin’, voices cryin’

Some are born and some are dyin’

It’s alpha and omega’s kingdom come

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree

The virgins are all trimming their wicks

The whirlwind is in the thorn tree

It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks

Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom

Then the father hen will call his chickens home

The wise man will bow down before the throne

And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns

When the man comes around

Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still

Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still

Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still

Listen to the words long written down

When the man comes around

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers

One hundred million angels singin’

Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettledrum

Voices callin’, voices cryin’

Some are born and some are dyin’

It’s alpha and omega’s kingdom come

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree

The virgins are all trimming their wicks

The whirlwind is in the thorn trees

It’s hard for thee to kick against the prick

In measured hundredweight and penny pound

When the man comes around

“And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts

And I looked, and behold a pale horse

And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him”

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Thanksgiving 2020

November 28, 2020 at 8:57 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Pretty much always has been, because, well… FOOD. I love the food. I love the deep fried turkey, I love the dressing (which I call stuffing even though it’s never stuffed in anything because you don’t stuff that which you deep fry), my cranberry sauce (which is apparently somewhat unique and more of a salsa or relish, a blend of: wholeberry cranberry, cranberry sauce, orange marmalade, apple cider vinegar, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeño, and a sprinkle of orange peel). For dessert, I prefer my marble pumpkin cheesecake over pumpkin pie, some years I’ve made Pumpkin Rolls — another bite of perfection. And I’ve always loved that above all, Thanksgiving is about being thankful to God for what we already have and the burden of gifts are not involved.

This year, our history studies coincided perfectly with the holiday: We studied William Bradford, the Mayflower, and the Pilgrims.

William Bradford: Pilgrim Boy by Bradford Smith is a gentle middle grade chapter book that tells the story of the Puritan governor William Bradford. From his childhood with his grandfather, through his schooling, to Holland, and across the sea to lead a new colony to religious freedom. Understanding his story helps flesh out understanding for King James, the King James Bible, British politics, and early America. Without knowing William Bradford, do you really know what the Pilgrims were thankful for?

During the weeks I read this aloud, Kiddo was reading a book called Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey, published by Beautiful Feet. We caught one error in the book, at the beginning the writers seem to be confused about Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart. We revisited our Rhyming History of Britain and memorized a few stanzas to ensure Kiddo didn’t remember the wrong information. It helped to clarify how James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Memorizing rhymes is one of our favorite activities (so much so that we spent November 5th celebrating Guy Fawkes Day memorizing the infamous poem… Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot…).

I read The Landing of the Pilgrims as a child, I really love the old Landmark Books and make a point of collecting them, and this was another one I made Kiddo read on her own this time. I find at this age when I can assign independent reading, instead of me reading out loud less, we just cover twice as many books per topic.

My husband read The Adventures of Myles Standish out loud and we both marveled over the beauty of the timeline across the bottom of Harness’s lovely biography (so much so, we started stocking up on other biographies in the same series for the future).

P.J. Lynch’s The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower might be one of my all time favorite Thanksgiving books. The illustrations are simply beyond gorgeous and take my breath away. Lewis Buzbee talks about children’s picture books in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop and how they’re meant to be read over and over again, by children and adults alike… this is one of those books, a perfect work of art I am pleased to own and revisit. I paid full price for it (something I rarely do, as the majority of my books are bought used), and have no regrets.

Thanksgiving Day, Kiddo insisted on dressing like a Wampanoag child. She was very disappointed that not a single article of clothing her dress up basket included authentic Wampanoag attire. Instead she’s wrapped in a touristy Navajo blanket sent to us for our donations to some reservation school or another. (My mother spent much of her childhood near the Navajo and they are the one tribe we feel a familial attachment to despite a lack of native blood. I grew up singing bible school songs in Navajo, as she was taught.) I know some in the world would consider this cultural appropriation at the worst or at best possibly roll their eyes at us, but we study these things and she dresses up out of the highest level of respect, empathy, and intrigue. This is childhood, children learn through stories and play.

By afternoon, she’d shed half her costume and settled into the life of Squanto while I read the Mayflower Papers over dessert.

Education is a lifetime pursuit and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my love of learning through the discipleship of homeschooling.

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Jamestown

November 28, 2020 at 7:39 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

We spent the month of October studying Jamestown, Pocahontas, and John Smith. We also read a few things on Galileo, since he was making discoveries and writing books around the same time and we enjoy getting a whole big picture of the world perspective when we study any place or time period.

So, for a big, big, big picture perspective, I read Her Majesty’s Spymaster by Stephen Budiansky first, to take me from all the mysteries surrounding Roanoke through British and Spanish politics, espionage, and intrigue, and into the reign of King James.

From there, I tackled Love and Hate in Jamestown by David A. Price. I loved this book. I think Price thinks very highly of John Smith and it shows, but I also think the author tackled the subject like a true historian: with a lot of source documents and an appreciation for the fact that all human beings typically have virtues as well as character flaws. Too many tend to portray people as all good or all bad, depending on their political leanings, personal preferences, and limited knowledge/ understanding of humanity.

I couldn’t put Price’s book down and I’m honestly astounded there are less than five star reviews on Goodreads because I just adored this account so much. It is well-balanced, thoroughly researched, and presented in a riveting manner. I think Price treated each historical figure with respect and honesty.

After this, naturally, we binge read everything we could get our hands on about Pocahontas. From D’Aulaire’s beautiful (though, apparently now controversial?) picture book, to Linwood Custalow’s “True Story” of Pocahontas, which to me reads like a propaganda piece about how all natives are saints and all white men were terrible… Obviously, these sorts of narratives (especially when poorly written) don’t sit well with me. I would love to read a Native American who is also a historian tackling this subject. I was disappointed in Custalow’s ranting, but am sure (because history is always documented by the “winners”) that some part of the truth lies in the middle and I’m dying to know which parts are the truths.

That desire for truth and clarity led me to Helen C. Rountree‘s The Powhatan Indians of Virginia, which is brilliant! I highly recommend her work for anyone looking for an authoritative voice on the natives of Virginia. Her research is so thorough and respectful she was made an honorary member of the Nansemond and Upper Mattaponi tribes. I appreciate that she is well-educated, articulate, and has the stamp of approval to share cultural context that allows us to understand what was going on between the lines of the source documents we’re accustomed to reading, like John Smith’s own book.

And like a flash, we moved onto William Bradford in time for Thanksgiving…

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Fly, Fly Again

January 7, 2020 at 4:56 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Fly, Fly Again

Authors: Katie Jaffe & Jennifer Lawson

Illustrator: Tammie Lyon

Genre: Children’s Storybook/ Picture Book

First and foremost, kiddo and I were blown away that Buzz Aldrin–THE BUZZ ALDRIN–wrote the foreword for this picture book. How cool is that? (My father, an engineer alum of the same university as Aldrin, was pretty impressed as well. Frequently, he reads my kiddo picture books and comments about how children’s publishing has “come a long way.”)

Reminiscent of The Questioneers series (of which we have every title!) by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, Jaffe and Lawson’s new book encourages critical thinking skills, creative wonder, and diligence to pursue dreams.

Kiddo loved the story, she’s nine, and still enjoys the magic of a children’s storybook even though she’s also reading chapter books now. She’s heard me quote “Try, Try Again” her whole life and learned to read on McGuffey’s which includes the poem in its reading exercises, so there was a genuine snicker when Hawk raised his feather and included the play on words, “If at first you don’t succeed, fly, fly again!”

“It is a great book, no one can doubt that. The airplane design [in the illustrations] is amazing. But you still can’t put that many people and pets into a wagon WITH a motor,” Kiddo told me. She is now monologuing design flaws, propellor safety, and superior ways to attempt this project. I think the book has done exactly its job: spiked STEM thinking.

Fly, Fly Again is a new favorite we plan to read often.

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Back to School…

August 14, 2019 at 4:25 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well, actually, we never left.

History in the hammock.

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Gilgamesh

July 26, 2019 at 4:47 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re studying ancient history in chronological order, sometime after you’ve read the Book of Genesis, it’s really fun to dive into Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is an epic poem most kids have to read in high school or early college for literature classes, originally written in Akkadian. It’s a mythological adventure about a real Sumerian king documented in history, who, like many kings of old, became a legend passed down through the ages, the truth of his life distorted and lost to deification.

Ludmilla Zeman has a fantastic children’s picture book trilogy that I find to be the best starting point for learning about Gilgamesh. It is consistent with most translations and full of beautiful illustrations. When kiddo was small and we were studying ancient history the first time around, we checked these out from the library over and over again. She loved them. This time I bought them, brand new. They’re worth every penny.

I picked up used copies of the epic for myself. I was disappointed to discover that every translation available was a translation of a translation. I know its ignorant to expect to read direct translations of the Old Babylonian tablets when you pick up a Penguin trade paperback, but I did. I went back to the store after reading through David Ferry’s pretty version and N.K. Sandar’s better translation, looking for something closer to Andrew George’s 2003 version – or better yet, George Smith’s 1870’s version! To no avail. Everyone wants new and better more modern ways to tell the tale, while I bemoan my inability to read archaic clay tablets I’d never get my hands on anyway.

I was hoping to find a cool cartoon on the tale for us to watch together, desiring a repeat of the experience we had when we studied Beowulf in 2016 (YouTube had an amazing cartoon rendition of Beowulf featuring the voice of Joseph Fiennes at the time…). All I found were some not so kid friendly “cliff notes” style videos of people walking students through what it was all about so they wouldn’t have to read the book themselves.

Attention all animators: Please provide a kid appropriate Gilgamesh cartoon, featuring an oddly famous actor of the 90’s of my choice. Thanks.

Gilgamesh is neat. I love the beautiful picture books we own. I will be the parent that makes sure she reads poem and doesn’t watch internet video summaries when she’s older. But I’m not in love with it the way I am with The Iliad and Beowulf. I think it may be the insincerity of it all. It feels obvious that it was a legend born of puffing up the ego of a king and his people. It takes Noah’s ark and twists it, I love reading confirmation that many regions of the world had a major flood, I’m saddened when the details are distorted and inconsistent, making heroes of those who weren’t and forgetting the one man who did obey.

Maybe I’ll love it when I finally get my hands on one of the George translations…

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American History With a 2nd Grader

June 14, 2019 at 6:37 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It has actually impressed me how much wonderful American History literature is available for children. Jean Fritz, who has a fantastic book for everything, is my first go to. We read the biography of Pocahontas nearly two years ago, and then moved on through time to other great biographies like Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? I desire to own everything Jean Fritz has ever written eventually. But I already knew I loved Jean Fritz when I started homeschooling. Jean Fritz is known. Some authors or books I didn’t previously know, however, and they have brought us much joy.

Ann Malaspina has an excellent picture book on Phillis Wheatley and George Washington. (We actually read a lot about Phillis Wheatley this year, and were enamored with every mention of her in other books and shows.) We also enjoyed Ann McGovern’s The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson. Avi’s Captain Grey intrigued us completely and opened up a lot of doors for discussions regarding moral dilemmas, trust, and relationships between adults and children.

We absolutely loved Becky Landers: Frontier Warrior by Skinner. It took us a long time to read it out loud, but it was worth every page. I think it’s important for kids to really experience a time period through literature, not just memorize the facts and move on. The stories are what helps my kiddo remember the facts she memorizes, and there are so many good stories!

During this time, which took up the entire summer going into her second grade school year, we also read Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry. Several years ago I was sent a recommendation for a unit study on horses put out by Beautiful Feet. I have all the books in their package, but instead of tackling it like a unit study, it has been an underlying theme in all her studies. She’s in her fourth year of horseback riding, so the undercurrent of equestrian education is something I hope she looks back on with fondness.

If you are into lists, these are the books we read next and loved:

Davy Crockett – George Sullivan

What Was the Alamo? – Meg Belviso

Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas – Jay Neugeboren

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple – Karen Cushman

The Moon of the Gray Wolves – Jean Craighead George

The Moon of the Fox Pups – Jean Craighead George

Sing Down the Moon – Scott O’dell

Harriet Tubman – Sawyer, DK Biographies

A Ballad of the Civil War – Mary Stolz

In a few years, we’ll have the pleasure of repeating this point in history, and there are so many more books I can’t wait to read with my kid, especially for the Civil War era. This year we focused more on biographies, we also read non-American ones like Florence Nightingale. Perhaps, next time we’ll read deeper into the wars. For second grade I tried to focus on the importance of moral goodness and fighting for what’s right while I hedged around the gory details.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the cartoon Liberty’s Kids, and I’ve got quite the little patriot on my hands. I’d appreciate any recommendations in the comments for books that encourage honor and respect for ones nation while also discerning its flaws. Because we study using a classical model, all of history gets repeated in cycles, chronologically, so there is plenty of time to line up our reading lists for the future.

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Wicked Histories

June 8, 2019 at 2:40 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

While reviewing all the books of years past, it’s impossible to avoid children’s history books, audiobooks, picture books, and a great many of odd resources. As mentioned many times before, I homeschool, so most my reading material reflects that.

We stumbled across the Wicked Histories series a few years ago, and I find the series extremely helpful when trying to find biographies on people who helped shaped the world but aren’t typically doted upon in children’s literature. From this series, last July while studying the 1700’s-1800’s we read Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia by Zu Vincent.

One thing I love about the Wicked Histories is that it has been an excellent tool for walking my kid through discernment practices. How do you identify bad people? What makes someone a safe person? People can be evil and still do good things. People can be good and still do bad things. It’s what they do longest, it’s the legacy they leave behind, that tends to define them. Most people, as researchers and biographers know, have a running theme for their life. The “theme,” so to speak, is often the best judge of their heart. They can say a few nice things, but if their legacy was that of slaughtering people in the street, could you truly call them good? Maybe they were known to love their family, but if all their political policies doomed their nation, what then? I like that Wicked Histories isn’t afraid to have these discussions with children. I also like that they never give a straight answer, the authors leave the conclusion up to the children.

Because these books are so full of moral nuance, I don’t have her read these alone, even though she could. I read all the Wicked Histories aloud as part of our school day and we discuss. Some of our most riveting discussions came while reading Cixi: Evil Empress of China? by Sean Stewart Price and Grigory Rasputin: Holy Man or Mad Monk? by Enid A. Goldberg. It’s helping her see that she has the power to pursue what is good and just in the world, or choose personal glory, fame, and power which tends to corrupt. These stories are helping her see that what you make your priorities matters, who you put your trust in matters. Alexandra Romanov, as well as many other Russian women of the time, were deceived by Grigory Rasputin. How do you watch for deceit while maintaining your positive attitude toward other human beings. I think these are important and healthy lessons to learn. We learn these lessons best by reading God’s word, yes, but also by and knowing our history.

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